Scott Michaels Interview
Director of Radio Station Fundraising
Career Capsule: I caught the radio bug as a seventh grader when I visited the local Top 40 station in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Even though the DJ told me NOT to get into radio, “because you’ll be poor your whole life,” I didn’t listen. I started out doing mornings at KBVM in Portland, and then was blessed to be involved in the programming departments of great stations over the years like KKJM, KSGN, KCMS, KWPZ and more. After serving as a Station Manager and Regional PD for Northwestern Media for nearly ten years, I joined forces with i58:10 Media as Director of Radio Station Fundraising.
Scott, tell us what’s new… news, changes, at i58:10 & with YOU… etc?
There are always lots of moving parts at i58:10 and this season is no exception. We are being intentional about offering more fundraising and research services to radio station clients. We have found success in being able to advise and assist in the areas of perceptual research, direct mail, email, listener and donor research as well as ongoing on-air vision spots. And of course, we continue to help stations turn fundraising into ministry, with events focused on celebrating God’s goodness and stories of what He has done, instead of incentives and contesting.
Recently we have also started representing the syndicated show, “Life with Lisa Williams.” New affiliates can receive the show at no cost, with an agreement to do a one-day fundraiser for India Partners. Affiliates also receive discounts on i58:10 fundraising services. Like I said, always LOTS going on at i58:10 Media!
What trends do you see emerging in Christian Radio fundraising?
What a great question! One of the side effects of the current polarized society is a general loss of trust and skepticism in many brands, including non-profits. Now, more than ever it is important for Christian ministries to be transparent and genuine in their fundraising and avoid anything that could come across as a gimmick. The good news is, in the research we’ve done for clients, Christian radio stations have the trust of their listeners and it only grows when fundraising is focused on storytelling and the Biblical foundations of giving.
What is the best Christian radio fundraising advice you’ve been given? The worst?
This is going to sound like a broken record…. Celebrate God and make sure your listeners are telling the story of what God has done through the ministry in a way that relates to as many non-donors as possible. A close second is to always know the difference between “why they give,” and “why they called.”
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
It can be better; it can be worse; it depends entirely on how each station approaches the challenge. And let’s be honest, when a new station – or any kind of new competition for listeners ears comes along – it presents a challenge. On a ministry level, I celebrate as many people as possible listening to the message of Jesus. The GREAT news is that experience and research show many markets can sustain and grow the ministry of multiple Christian radio stations. The key comes in how each station differentiates itself in the heart of their target listener. And forgive me for the soapbox moment, but “local” may be a differentiator, but it is not a strategy. People in our times are looking for hope and companionship, no matter where your studio is located. The station that provides those powerful things in powerful ways will continue to see growth and relevance in their communities. And that can be maximized within the context your locality, but it isn’t accomplished by more weather forecasts and local news and sports scores.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job?
I’m so basic…. Lol. Coffee, Mountain Dew and an internet connection! Although, I recently started the switch to Mac from PC, and now the MacBook is moving its way up this list!
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I don’t think anyone knows the complete answer to that, but I am intrigued by the channels I see “talents” connecting with people on, right now. I have two teenage daughters that spend way more time connecting with YouTube content creators than they do with anyone on traditional radio or TV. If I was still programming day-to-day, I would spend time looking at who the leading bloggers, vloggers, podcasters and other social media influencers from my area are and start making connections. Just because someone didn’t audio distribution first doesn’t mean they couldn’t be great at it!
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
This kind of goes with the last question, but it will have to do with channel disruption, and our willingness and ability to grow beyond “what we know.” The barrier to entry for new formats, online content and other brand-centric efforts has never been lower. It comes down to our willingness to try new things (no, I’m not talking about just an online CHR stream) and learn from failures, fast. And mostly, it comes down to CONTENT that you own and can distribute.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Like many others, it has to be Alan Mason and John Frost. I literally thank God that He orchestrated an introduction to those two gentlemen early in my career. And that he gave me the humility to put down my pride and listen to what they had to say. Over the years they have challenged me professionally AND personally, and I could never repay the debt of gratitude I owe to them.
Dick Whitworth and Marv Mickley were the two best bosses I ever had and helped me grow as a husband and father. Scott Valentine is a close second as best boss ever!
I also am consistently learning from great friends like TJ Holland, Melony McKaye, Rick Hall, Mike Couchman, Lauree Austin, Lisa Williams, Brian Yeager, Chuck Finney, Mark Ramsey, Sarah Taylor and more.
Scott Jones at Northwestern Media taught me so much about stewardship and the nitty-gritty of managing a budget. He also told me to “sit down and shut up” when I needed to hear it.
My partners in crime at i58:10 Media, David Harms and Hope Hamilton continue to make my brain hurt – in a good way – when we talk fundraising strategy and theory.
There are so many great people in our industry, and I think I have learned something new from someone new every time we all gather!